Friday, August 14, 2009

Pay the kids some more.

[Here's part one, for those playing at home.]

How about this for comparison. I had a full music scholarship when I went to Alabama. Almost nothing I did while I was there did anything to bring money to the university (almost all the concerts were free - the exception was the Christmas show). At Oklahoma I had a graduate teaching assistantship that paid so little, I gave a substantial amount of it back to the school for the excess tuition fees. The classes I taught did some little bit to help the school financially. I - like most grad students - was woefully underpaid for it, though and had to supplement with student loans.

This is normal, but I had little financial impact on either of my universities. College football players have a huge impact, both on their school's bottom line and ability to attract more students. Just talk to all the players on mediocre teams in the mid-major conferences that go on the road to play big teams, only rarely scoring an upset, but always getting a huge payday for their schools. Players that play for elite programs like USC, OU, 'Bama, Notre Dame, and even down-but-not-out Michigan are some of the hands that feed their universities big money. (If they get injured, there's a bigger price.) I'm not saying players are the sole bread-winners - universities obviously have other (and bigger) sources of funding - but with as much money as there is in the college game, can't the players see some of that? They probably get book scholarships and dorm rooms and food paid for as well, but I'd argue for something more explicit.

The NCAA should sanction nominal stipends. This might act as a deterrent against the kind of shenanigans that cost Rhett Bomar a place on the OU football squad (both for the boosters and the players themselves). There are all kinds of ways for boosters to get money to kids. Maybe a stipend program would help curtail the practice. Right now the perception is that college players are paid with an education, books and room and board, but if colleges can say, "hey, we also pay them for what they do on the field that explicitly brings us money," then there's less a perception that the kids are being used. It's also a bit of an insurance policy against getting hurt. I'm thinking of Tyrone Prothro, a 'Bama receiver with "NFL" written all over him - until he broke his leg in the line of duty. A stipend wouldn't cover the loss of an NFL career but it at least acknowledges that there are physical and career risks for guys. Some would say that that's just the way it goes, but I would say the difference between "in the NFL" and "not in the NFL" is huge.

Look, I know that this whole pay-the-players concept is fraught with big problems. For one, the NCAA would never do it, nor would any system chancellor or university president. It really ruins the amateur standing that the NCAA polices so vigorously. But the financial inequities are there, they're obvious, and they need to be addressed.

1 comment:

  1. You are at risk when you play football. Think of it this way, if a player gets hurt in the line of duty, then they have their education to use (fall back on seemed to be the wrong choice of words). If they are not playing college football to get an education (whether it be in athletics/football, academics or life) then they should let another student have their scholarship. College football is a stepping stone. They'll get paid the big bucks if they make it through, prove themselves and as always, with the grace of God.